Pairing People with Pets

There’s an unusual kind of corporate chatter in Kristin Sanger’s office. She’s the boss, but the orders are barked by someone — or rather something — else. Dogs. Two dozen of them plus 40 felines meowing for attention. Needless to say, there’s no such thing as a slow start to any day at Snake River Animal Shelter in Idaho Falls.

 “There’s this sense of urgency when you walk in the door,” says Sanger, executive director of Snake River Animal Shelter. “These animals need us. We are their voice. They can’t advocate for themselves.”

 

By Kris Millgate

Photos Courtesy of Snake River Animal Shelter

 

Awareness Is Up

Snake River Animal Shelter exists because of a staggering statistic discovered 10 years ago. An estimated 1,000 unwanted animals were euthanized weekly in Eastern Idaho. Most of them because of lack of space. Snake River Animal Shelter doesn’t want that.

“We don’t euthanize animals for length of stay,” Sanger says. “We allow animals to stay here for as long as it takes to find them a home.”

The shelter officially opened in August 2015, but its mission evolved for more than a decade by changing the way unwanted animals were treated in Eastern Idaho. The staff also created overpopulation awareness and consistently promoted spay and neuter options. Now, newly placed pets are “fixed” before they leave the shelter, and the staff’s relentless efforts in favor of better animal treatment is creating cultural change.

 

Adoption for All

City shelters from Pocatello to Rexburg reduced the number of cats they put down, and dogs are no longer euthanized because of lack of space. They go to Snake River Animal Shelter instead. When space is tight, the shelter taps its established foster network until the animal is adopted. Cats can take a few months to place, but dogs usually have a new home within a week. Snake River shelter celebrated 550 successful placements in its first year of operation.

“Adoption numbers are the thing I’m most proud of,” Sanger says. “We can set records on events and make a record amount of money for a given purpose, but the truth is the thing we’re most proud of is our adoption rate.”

With the barricades of poor animal treatment and overpopulation knocked over, the next challenge is ongoing funding of the shelter. Housing, feeding and caring for hundreds of homeless animals that won’t be put down no matter how long they stay takes a hearty chunk of money annually.

“The biggest challenge is animals are definitely the underdog when it comes to funding,” Sanger says. “They have the tendency to be forgotten. We get about one-tenth of what a human-interest organization gets.”

 

Affection for Animals

In spite of its limited funds, the shelter still finds homes for animals — including the one chasing a laser beam across Sanger’s desk. That’s Yuki. She’s Sanger’s new kitten and she leaves the office with Sanger at the end of every dog-barking day.

“I love my job. Its feels really good to make a difference in the lives of animals,” Sanger says. “Uniting them with their forever family is definitely what makes us happiest.”